How to get a used cargo van cheap?
December 12, 2011 12:21 PM   Subscribe

Straightforward question: How do I go about getting the best deal on a used Ford Econoline cargo van?

More info: I plan on driving it between 10,000 and 20,000 miles over the next year, mostly freeway miles. I don't need it to last much longer than that, but I'd very much like it to be reliable, because I'll be traveling through some very remote places.

I don't care about appearance. Dents and dings are fine.

A/C is important. Manual or automatic are both fine. Diesel is probably best, but not necessary.

I'm willing to travel for a very good deal, maybe as much as 250 miles from the San Francisco Bay Area.

I have no skills in car repair.

I can spend about $7000. More if I really need to, but obviously less is better.

If you think the Econoline is a bad choice for a used cargo van, I'd be interested in hearing specific better alternatives.
posted by lore to Travel & Transportation (3 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
We bought one that had been purchased at a state auction in Texas. $8,000, 2005, but I think the original buyers spent around $6k. Technically it is a passenger econoline, but really it is just seats bolted into a cargo van with some carpet thrown down. We really like it. Handles poorly in the snow and gets 17mpg on a good day, on the freeway. Powerful. I hope some of that data is useful. You should perhaps consider flying out to a good deal and driving it home.
posted by mecran01 at 12:27 PM on December 12, 2011

... but obviously less is better.

I'd rethink that. You'll probably be better off spending the whole $7k, shop and negoitiate carefully to get the best truck you can for that price, and then sell the thing when you're done. Spending as little as you can is just going to get you stranded in the middle of nowhere. Economize by getting a good value when you buy and a good price when you sell, not by being cheap.
posted by jon1270 at 12:40 PM on December 12, 2011 [2 favorites]

Along the lines of mecran01 - go to auctions. I know that here locally there are two auctions a month by the city of Denver for cars and trucks. There are other auctions for the federal marshalls and bankruptcy proceedings.

The downside here is that you won't know much about the maintenance. However, with some of the bankruptcy auctions (at least here locally) you can inspect the vehicles first. I would find a mechanic who is willing to go with you. Select a couple vans that you're interested in - ideally all the same make/model and buy a battery so the mechanic can check things out for you.
posted by FlamingBore at 2:26 PM on December 12, 2011 [1 favorite]

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